January 28, 2022: Indian cricket’s progress is being admired by the other cricket nations of the world. The process that has been put in place to produce cricket stars from the school to the international level is being applauded. India, let alone fielding one side, are boasting of being able to field two international cricket sides of world standard.
Indian cricket is flourishing like never before, with academies being established in every corner of the vast country. Cricket has become one of the most lucrative careers to pursue with umpteen examples of rags-to-riches stories.
The most interesting change has been the attitude of the Indian cricketers. They look immensely confident and show maturity beyond their age. They have the self-belief and an air of positivity that has not been seen before.
The cricket infrastructure and attitude is what made one believe that Indian cricket will soon become a force that would rule the world of cricket for many years to come.
The loss that India faced in the semifinals of the World Cup in 2019, thereafter, in the finals of the World Test Championship and in the T20 World Cup in 2021 were seen as unlucky and unfortunate results.
Indian fans and followers, after the wins against Australia and England away from home and demolishing all the opponents at home, believed that the Indian cricket team is and has the makings of a true champion side.
This belief continued when India demolished a young and inexperienced South African side in the first Test match at the Centurion stadium in Gauteng. A series win for the first time in South Africa looked like it was already dished out on a platter as India had both the batting and bowling strengths to encounter all eventualities.
All this turned to dust as India not only lost the Test series 1-2, but were outplayed and outsmarted by the young South African side in the One-Day Internationals as well. A 3-0 defeat of the Indian side was just not palatable as the fans and followers considered Indian cricket to be the leading team in the world.
The decision of Virat Kohli, the Indian Test captain and India’s leading batsman, to quit captaincy came as another bolt from the blue. He had earlier stepped down from captaining the T20 Indian side and was conveniently sidelined from the ODIs as well.
The other major change was that of the head coach, with Rahul Dravid taking over from Ravi Shastri. The issue was not only of a change at the top but also in the support staff, wherein the important bowling and fielding coaches were also not retained.
Rahul Dravid has been a part of India’s cricket scheme of things for quite a while, having been the coach of the India U-19, India A as well as the Indian side to Sri Lanka. He was also the man at the helm of the National Cricket Academy and so is very familiar with all the players, both young and old.
One expected a smooth takeover from Ravi Shastri and his team to Rahul Dravid. Unfortunately, from the looks of it one can feel confusion prevailing at present. The aura that one had of Dravid seems to have been severely dented. The defeat against a relatively novice South African side who outplayed and out-thought the Indian camp in all the departments of the game, has brought Indian cricket down by many notches.
They are losing their ranking in all the formats of the game and from being the number one Test side are now placed at number three.
Rahul Dravid, in his press interview, stressed the fact that India’s loss could be attributed to some of their key players missing due to injuries. He may have a point there. However, that shows that India evidently does not have the bench strength that one boasts of.
The Indian think-tank, the coach and the senior players need to address the present drowning situation of the Indian cricket scenario very seriously. The Test Championship is underway and, hence, every match and series is of utmost importance. Additionally, two very important World Cup tournaments are on the anvil, the T20 World Cup later this year and the prestigious ODI World Cup in India in 2023.
First and foremost, India needs to establish a leader, who will captain them through all the three formats of the game. India historically has always looked up to one central figure at the top. Indian cricket needs to understand that. A lot of responsibilities should be given to Rahul Dravid, the coach. He knows the qualities and capabilities of all Indian cricketers, both those established as well as those on the fringe of selection.
Indian cricket can only thrive once the selectors, the coach and the captain are on the same path with complete transparency between them. Indian cricket does have plenty of options available to them to make a world-class team. However, at present, one can see confusion and chaos. This will further increase once the IPL gets underway. A new list of potential players may emerge causing even more confusion and mayhem.
India has the potential to once again become a dominant force in world cricket, it only needs the right heads to sit together and think and plan it. One hopes and prays that it happens soon and not after the horse has bolted.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)